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Europe

Switzerland narrowly votes to curb immigration

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-10

Swiss voters have narrowly backed reintroducing strict immigration quotas, official results from a referendum on Sunday showed. The measure passed with around 50.3 percent of the vote, according to Swiss television station SRF.

Known as the initiative to “stop mass immigration” the referendum was put forth by the country’s right-wing Swiss people’s Party (SVP).

The referendum’s outcome threatens not only to hurt Switzerland’s economy, but also its relationship with the EU. Although it is not a member of the European Union, Switzerland’s immigration policy has granted EU citizens the right to move freely and work within its borders for the past 12 years.

In addition to calling into question Switzerland’s bilateral agreements with the EU, critics of the measure have argued that it will exacerbate a shortage of skilled workers in the country, which is the home of Roche, UBS, Nestle and other multinationals dependent on foreign professionals.

The European Commission said in a statement that it regretted the vote and would assess its bilateral ties with Switzerland.

"This goes against the principle of free movement of persons between the EU and Switzerland," the European Commission said. "The EU will examine the implications of this initiative on EU-Swiss relations as a whole."

Almost a quarter of the 8 million people living in Switzerland are foreigners. But Switzerland’s restrictive citizenship laws also mean many people who were born in the country or have lived there for a long time don’t have a Swiss passport, inflating the share of foreigners compared to other countries.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-02-09

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